Plans lodged for expanded solar farm near Cappoquin

Dublin-based developers Highfield Solar Ltd., have lodged a planning application with Waterford City and County Council looking to increase the size of the company’s proposed solar farm development near Cappoquin in West Waterford.

A summary of the proposal states that Highfield Solar Ltd are looking to increase the footprint of their Drumroe solar farm by 15.1 hectares, which would mean ‘a revised total site area of up to 43.9hA’. The permission, if approved, would be valid for 10 years.

The process for winning planning permission for this development has proved contentious. Originally, Highfield Solar Ltd’s proposal was for a 28.8 hectare solar farm, located on land presently under agricultural use, some 4 kilometres south-east of Cappoquin.

In 2016, Waterford City and County Council granted conditional planning permission for the solar farm, however a number of local residents appealed the decision to An Bord Plaenála, leading to a review of the case.

At that time, arguments were made before the national planning authority, that a solar farm would have a visual impact locally, and would clash with the rural landscape. Concerns relating to the potential ‘glint and glare’ that would come from solar panels were also made in representations to An Bord Plaenála, suggesting that this could impact on motorists driving on the nearby N72.

However, in late 2016, ABP decided that these concerns were not sufficient to stop the development from going ahead.

The inspector who examined the case, did stipulate at the time that he was concerned for one particular property to the south-east of the solar farm and ordered that ‘no panel be placed within 100 metres of this property, and that the corner of this site be planted with trees to a depth of at least 50 metres’.

35 year operational life

Further details of the proposed solar farm show that the development would include one single-storey electrical substation building along with an electrical transformer.

The solar panels themselves were to be ‘ground-mounted on steel support structures’.

Other works necessary to prepare the site would see the installation of CCTV cameras, access tracks, fencing and other infrastructure.

The Inspector’s Report filed by An Bord Pleanála stated that ‘the operational period shall be 25 years’.

However, the revised planning application now under review by Waterford City and County Council shows that the ‘operational life of the development is to be 35 years.